On the Line: Jon Blackford of A Restaurant, Part Two

We spend a little more time with the dynamic duo of Jon Blackford and Tony Motakef discussing the history behind A Restaurant. In addition, Jon throws us a curve ball with what he'd be doing for a living in an alternate universe. Stay tuned for tomorrow's recipe, and check out Part One if you want to read our interview from the beginning.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Don't ask questions you can answer yourself.

What would your last meal on Earth be?
A six-course tasting of foie gras with a glass of Turley zinfandel.

Who's your hero, culinary or otherwise?
Marco Pierre White. [Editor's Note: See Part One for his reason.]

Tell us about your food-service-industry background.
I've worked from scratch to fine dining, served from volume to small. Before I attended CIA in New York, I was a banquet cook at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. Prior to that, I worked in both New Orleans and Chicago. After culinary school, I spent time at Blue Hill Farm and did an externship in Torrey Pines before returning to Hilton as the chef de cuisine at Palm Court [which transitioned to Shades Restaurant].

The building you're in has a great deal of history behind it. How do you honor the history and cuisine it was known for?
We kept the same theme of American classics. Just modernized them with available ingredients.

Is the “A” in your name for Arches, a play on words, or something else?
It is an homage to the Arches.

Why open A Market?
Tony Motakef: We liked the concept of an informal local hangout for breakfast or lunch. Business meetings happen there all the time. It is also available for catering.

Tell us about the wine lockers.
Motakef: For $3,000, diners receive a lifetime, private membership. This includes invitations to special events, a list of your locker's inventory, no corkage fees and a table waiting when you dine here. Sometimes, we may even add an occasional bottle to your inventory. And $1,000 is donated to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

What dish would you tell newcomers to A Restaurant to try first?
Jon Blackford: It's between the block-cut New York steak, the pork or the halibut. I'd do a tasting of all three, if they couldn't decide.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
Electrical engineering on computers.

What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
Think it through; you have to sacrifice.

What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
Running a successful restaurant or three!

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